WWD Exclusive: Unsubscribed, American Eagle Outfitters’ Latest Brand, Focuses on ‘Slow Retail’

The apparel and accessories brand will drop just two collections a year, emphasizing quality over quantity.

By Kellie Ell | Link to article

Inside American Eagle Outfitters’ new Unsubscribed store are phrases such as “less is more” and “kind. conscious. free spirited” painted along the walls, oversize green plants and lots of sunlight. Clothing is spaced at intervals on racks, invoking a sense of minimalism, with a select assortment of accessories, including handbags and sunglasses, on display.

“Unsubscribed is all about slowing down, celebrating the beauty of modern simplicity and taking things easy,” Jennifer Foyle, Aerie global brand president, told WWD about American Eagle Outfitters’ fourth brand, which was quietly launched last month in just one store in East Hampton, N.Y. American Eagle Outfitters also owns Aerie and Todd Snyder, in addition to the nameplate brand.

“The goal is to create a welcoming environment,” Foyle said about Unsubscribed. “It’s about taking it easy and enjoying a stress-free shopping experience amongst beautiful clothes and accessories that you can’t help but purchase.”

Which is one reason American Eagle Outfitters decided to launch the brand in one of America’s prime summer locales. “The Hamptons truly are the epitome of relaxation,” Foyle said, regarding the location.

Opening a brick-and-mortar store amid a global pandemic that has caused retailers to close up shop — temporarily and in some cases permanently — may seem like a strange move. But Foyle said she began devising the idea pre-pandemic.

In fact, sustainability has been on her mind for some time. Earlier this year, under Foyle’s leadership, Aerie launched a line of sustainable swimwear. The collection is made from Repreve, or about 1.2 million recycled plastic bottles. The intimates brand also regularly donates gently worn bras to women in need by way of recycling bins in stores. As of March, Aerie recycled more than 43,000 used bras through the program. And, when Aerie expanded its AerieReal role model program in January, it added Manuela Barón to the 2020 roster. (Barón is a visual artist known for making sustainable art, or art out of trash. She also blogs about her commitment to producing zero waste.)

“The generations coming up really care about sustainability and I think we have to address it,” Foyle told WWD in March. “To get to 100 percent perfection would never be easy. I think the most important thing about this topic is to be very transparent.”

Unsubscribed plays off the sustainability theme, incorporating the concept of “slow retail,” or products that last longer.

“We are referring not only to the quality of our product, but the shopping experience as a whole,” Foyle said recently. “And this begins with how we communicate with our customer. We respect the slower pace by reaching out less frequently and more thoughtfully.”

That’s why the brand is only dropping two collections a year, emphasizing quality over quantity. And while not all products are fully sustainable, Unsubscribed is aiming to be more socially conscious. Some in-store examples include domestically produced knitwear and fleece, recycled nylon swimwear, upcycled denim and handbags made from 100 percent postconsumer waste.

Brands such as Ubuntu, Nannacay, A.Shirt.Story, Boyish and Indego Africa can also be found in the store, in addition to the in-house label. Accessories start at $5; swimwear ranges from $70 to $250; dresses from $90 to $550, and tops from $40 to $300.

There will be no e-commerce business — at least not yet. Instead, the brand’s Instagram account and web site, unsubscribed.com, which goes live July 2, will feature seasonal look books, store imagery and question-and-answer spotlights with founders of the third-party brands.

“We believe in creating meaningful connections with our customers,” Foyle said. “Like we’ve done within our stores, we want to build a digital space where we can share creative content, new product and inspiring photos. And we recognize the power a digital platform has in bringing us together.”

That doesn’t mean Unsubscribed will never have an e-commerce element. Foyle said the brand plans to eventually open up the experience to shoppers outside of the New York area by way of an online shop.

“We’re excited for her to experience Unsubscribed, no matter where she is,” Foyle said. The exact date has not yet been set.

There is also “definitely the possibility” of expanding Unsubscribed’s retail fleet to other locations and markets in the future.

“However, we are being thoughtful and selective on those location choices,” Foyle said. “We plan to use our East Hampton store to test and learn this new brand and customer to help us gain valuable insights for future growth. The growth of the business is always top-of-mind and we’ve led with a best-in-class strategy for identifying new opportunities to continue our momentum.”

Meanwhile, American Eagle Outfitters has plans to expand the rest of its retail fleet. On the June conference call, Foyle said Aerie plans to open about 25 locations this year, a mix of stand-alone and side-by-side American Eagle-Aerie units, many of them in new markets, despite recent losses.

“AEO is a leader in the industry and we’re thrilled to be in a spot that allows us to grow with the introduction of Unsubscribed into our portfolio,” Foyle said. “Like everything we do, we’ve put a lot of time, passion and resources into launching the brand and are fortunate to turn this concept into a reality despite these challenging times.

“Also, as a company, we are always looking for new ways to expand our community,” Foyle continued. “We’re constantly listening and learning from our current customers and we’re excited to do the same for the Unsubscribed shopper. The East Hampton location is the perfect spot for us to reach her first through this single store concept.”